By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
Here in the rolling hills of Itawamba County – far away from the arid landscape of west Asia where his kind call home – Joe Camel must feel very out of place.
Not that it shows. Joe – a dromedary, or one-humped Arabian camel – looks on at the busloads of giggling, screaming, laughing, reaching children visiting Holley Farms with natural indifference, eyes half-closed and lips slowly rolling as he lazily chews a mouthful of hay. He shares pen space with a small cow and seems to get along with this roommate as well as he would another of his own species.
Tremont resident Danny Holley, who owns and operates Holley Farm with his wife, Jan, said that by and large, Joe’s a pretty easygoing guy.
“I’ve never been around a camel before, but Joe’s been pretty good,” Holley said, looking on as the camel arched his long neck downward for another bite of hay. “He doesn’t really bother anything, though he can be kind of moody. Sometimes he won’t come mess with you and sometimes he will.”
Joe’s stay at Holley Farm was the result of Holley’s attempts at borrowing a few more traditional animals for the fall tourism season. While speaking with his friend Robbie McCrory, who Holley said usually has an unusual animal or two on hand, the subject of a camel came up.
“I was just going to borrow a couple of goats and a donkey, when Robbie said, ‘I want to bring you a camel.'”
Holley shook his head and continued:
“I told him we didn’t need a camel. This is a farm. And he just said, ‘You’ll like Joe.'”
Admittedly, Joe is pretty likable, though he drools quite a bit and, as is the way with his kind, enjoys spitting. There’s nothing quite so disgusting as being spat upon by a camel. And although Joe is certainly a strange sight, in truth, he’s not much different than Itawamba’s native cows or horses. He eats grass and grains, generally has a good demeanor and, when the mood strikes him, enjoys a friendly pat on the head.
The kids, who visit the farm by the hundreds, also seem to love him. Although Holley Farm has a “No Petting” rule in place, Joe doesn’t seem to pay it any mind. More than once, the camel stretched his long neck over the top of the fence, bowing his head so that it was just in reach of some tiny, outreached arm.
Of course, Joe would receive this affection with little more than the passive expression he gave everything else. Still, as several kids rifled through his soft, bushy hair, Joe seemed to linger. It was as if he knew that even though he was far from his native soil, he was still where he belonged.